Sunday, Dec. 12, 2004
Ditching their Ramones-like pseudonyms on their sixth album, The Donnas move beyond whatever novelty appeal they've retained since their high-school days in Palo Alto, Calif. Though they were never really a punk band, their artless energy endeared them to the kind of indiephiles who think innocence of purpose is enough. Motley Crue and Kiss riffs in the service of the usual adolescent themes and performed by four Runaways-wannabes is about as innocent as you could get in the late '90s, but The Donnas had to grow up eventually, so its gratifying that "Gold Medal" is more about craft than attitude.
Singer Brett Anderson hasn't abandoned her offhandedly natural tone -- she still sounds like the girl who hung around the art room and disdained any and all cliques -- but she's also figured out why she likes Pat Benatar. Guitarist Allison Robertson has expanded her faithful stash of Motorhead licks to embrace a whole new galaxy of rock stylings, and not just the hard variety. And while the writing is similarly ambitious -- the girls demonstrate a newfound talent for pop psychedelia -- they still remember why they wanted to go up on stage in the first place. They simply refuse to release a song that doesn't rock the boys right down to their Converses.